FitnessGenes - the world’s fastest growing fitness DNA testing company - receives Innovate UK grant funding to combat obesity

FitnessGenes won £228k of Smart scheme funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency (formerly the Technology Strategy Board). FitnessGenes is an Oxfordshire-based research lab producing DNA-based fitness advice that helps people to get into the best shape of their lives through gene-specific diet and exercise recommendations. Prof Jean-Baptiste Cazier, Director of the new Centre for Computational Biology at the University of Birmingham (UK), will be aiding the team with bioinformatics expertise.

The Innovate UK funding award will be used by FitnessGenes and their collaborators at the University of Birmingham to analyse both genetic and lifestyle data, and produce scientifically designed, personalised, actionable recommendations to help people rapidly achieve their health and fitness goals. 

The increasing prevalence of obesity is a global epidemic, and is a massive burden on health care providers, costing billions every year to manage and treat.   With generic, unpersonalised, plans having failure rates of over 95%, research shows that personalised diet and exercise plans tailored to the individual hold the key to tackling obesity, 

FitnessGenes has already tested and provided Genetic Blueprints to thousands of customers in the USA and the UK, and is continuously evolving the research and science underpinning their Genetic Training Systems. The Innovate UK funding enables FitnessGenes to build on its current successes and empowers their team of PhD geneticists, sports scientists and programmers to develop the ‘next generation’ of health advice to combat obesity, and to help those who are already fit achieve the next level of success.

About Innovate UK

Innovate UK is the new name for the Technology Strategy Board – the UK’s innovation agency. Taking a new idea to market is a challenge. Innovate UK funds, supports and connects innovative businesses through a unique mix of people and programmes to accelerate sustainable economic growth. For further information visit www.innovateuk.org

About Smart scheme funding

Managed by Innovate UK, the Smart scheme offers funding to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to engage in R&D projects in the strategically important areas of science, engineering and technology, from which successful new products, processes and services could emerge.

About Prof Jean-Baptiste Cazier, Director of the Centre for Computational Biology

Professor Jean-Baptiste Cazier, Director of the Centre for Computational Biology, is a Professor of Bioinformatics with interests across the broad spectrum of Computational Biology; from Cancer Genetics, Population Genetics and Metabonomics to Swarming. 

After years developing and applying new approaches in Population Genetics with deCode Genetics in Iceland, he joined the Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute, where he worked alongside experts in most aspects of bioinformatics and biostatistics in the context of cancer. While in Oxford, from 2008, he supervised the development of analytical approaches and tools for the analysis of whole genome sequencing projects (WGS500) at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics; successfully publishing on new variants functionally associated with the development of diseases. After creating a new Bioinformatics infrastructure at the Department of Oncology Professor Cazier moved to the University of Birmingham, taking up the new Chair of Bioinformatics to establish the Centre for Computational Biology (CCB). 

The CCB provides an opportunity to combine the various facets of this broad field, from both development and application. The centre revolves around the three major components of application, training and development; disseminated through the many fields of expertise found within the diverse domains of the Colleges of Medical and Dental Sciences, Life and Environmental Sciences, and Engineering and Physical Sciences. The CCB aims to promote excellence in Computational Biology, Systems Biology, and Bioinformatics across the range of fundamental and applied sciences, in both the University and Allied Health Care arenas.

About the Univerisity of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham has been challenging and developing great minds for more than a century. Characterised by a tradition of innovation and research the University has broken new ground, pushed forward the boundaries of knowledge and made an impact on people’s lives. The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions and was named University of the Year 2014 in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide, in October 2013. 

Over 90% of Birmingham’s research was rated as world leading or of international quality in the 2008 UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). With world-leading activity across a range of subjects, it remains one of the UK’s most broadly-based research-led universities. 

About FitnessGenes Ltd

FitnessGenes was founded July 2013 by Dr.Dan Reardon MD, Dr Samantha Decombel PhD (Birmingham), Dr Stuart Grice PhD (Oxford), and Mark Gilbert CISSN. An initial conversation between Dan and Stuart at their best friend’s wedding led to the research-and-development project that is now FitnessGenes. With £1M of funding raised to date, FitnessGenes is staying true to its academic roots, and leading the world of fitness genetics.

They use the combination of people’s DNA and their environmental circumstances to provide proactive lifestyle recommendations to help achieve fitness goals, rather than simply identifying health risks. FitnessGenes tests and services are designed to empower people, not to scare them. 

The FitnessGenes team have a strong ethical code of practice to ensure their product is in keeping with their own beliefs. FitnessGenes do not believe genetic testing can be used for athlete selection, and therefore do not test under 18s. FitnessGenes believe everyone should own their genetic data, and therefore have an opt-out clause for all customers wishing not to participate in future research. FitnessGenes believe this information should be shared with carefully vetted academic communities for the advancement of science and human health. FitnessGenes continues to go from strength to strength and recently expanded its operations to the USA, setting up a branch in Beverley Hills, California.

Written by Dr Sam Decombel

Wednesday, October 28, 2015